A Partnership for Research Excellence

  Wednesday, April 3, 2024
  Research, Around Campus

By Maria Gonzalez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – APRIL 3, 2024 – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) and the Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) have signed a collaborative research agreement to strengthen international research and academic collaborations.

This initiative aims to enhance regional competitiveness through a portfolio of applied research and development topics to be carried out jointly by faculty and students of UTRGV and UDLAP.

Dr. Can (John) Saygin, senior vice president for Research and dean of the Graduate College at UTRGV, emphasized the agreement's role in advancing innovation and fostering international collaboration. 

The agreement commits both universities to a unified effort in addressing global and regional challenges jointly, marking a significant step toward achieving shared objectives of both institutions.    

“With this agreement, both universities commit to facilitate exchange of knowledge and resources, strengthening our research capacity and capabilities,” Saygin said. “It's a commitment to leveraging our collective strengths for a broader impact.”

The immediate focus will be on additive manufacturing, applied research and development, and workforce development.

“President Luís Ernesto Derbez Bautista and I are determined to facilitate building an exemplary research program that effectively brings together UDLAP and UTRGV faculty and students for collaborative applied R&D,” Saygin said.

He highlighted UTRGV’s reach as a regional university, emphasizing its role in enhancing cross-border collaboration in manufacturing, automation and industrial innovation.

“UTRGV is a regional university. We cover 125 miles and we're focused on expanding our engagement within these communities,” he said. 

He pointed to the potential for leveraging manufacturing, automation and other sectors across the border for a “bi-national approach” to geographical location.

Derbez Bautista, president of UDLAP, further emphasized the partnership's aim to serve as a cultural and educational bridge.

“Both institutions are focused on preparing the next generation, the Mexican youths we aim to employ in the United States, and young Mexican Americans seeking to connect with their heritage while gaining valuable insights,” he said. “It's unique. There's nothing else like it anywhere else. We would be the first set of universities with this vision.” 


A key part of Saygin's vision focuses on the challenge of retaining talent.

“Our biggest export at UTRGV is human capital,” he said. “We have great programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels, including research doctoral programs. Due to lack of jobs in our region that require such skills acquired by our graduates, they end up leaving the Valley.”

He proposes a strategic focus on creating high-value employment opportunities.

“The best way to keep them here is not to target average paying jobs, but to target technology-driven, high-paying jobs, because those kinds of jobs together with technology-based companies will radically improve the economic status of the Valley and improve quality of life in our region.” 

His approach aims at building up the local area to keep and draw in talent, thereby improving the economy and community life of the Rio Grande Valley.

The UDLAP agreement is a key component in developing the infrastructure and opportunities needed to support high-tech industries and innovation in the area.

“It provides a strong reason for graduates to remain and contribute to the local economy,” Saygin said.

UTRGV and Universidad de las Américas Puebla leadership attend the ceremony in support of the collaborative research agreement that will strengthen international research and academic collaborations for both institutions. (UTRGV Photo by Jesus Alferez)


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.